Tom Brady Struggles More Than Receivers, Alfonzo Dennard Not Targeted Among Five Takeaways From Patriots-Bengals

Bill BelichickThe Patriots really miss Rob Gronkowski.

They also missed Stevan RidleyShane VereenVince Wilfork and Matthew Slater on Sunday against the Bengals. The Patriots got by with what they had in the first four games of the season, but sometimes the injured pieces just start piling up too much.

New England got Danny Amendola back but lost Ridley. Getting Amendola back was a boost, but he’s a very similar player to Julian Edelman. If Edelman had not stepped up so much, getting Amendola back from his groin injury would have been bigger. The Patriots may not have figured out how to use the two receivers together yet, and when both players are on the field, it eliminates one downfield threat.

That’s why Aaron Dobson was rarely seen against the Bengals. Things will change when Gronkowski comes back, of course. And at this point, you have to assume he’ll be back against New Orleans, whom the Patriots should have no problem moving the ball against.

Before we move on to the Saints, however, check out my five takeaways after rewatching the TV tape of Patriots-Bengals below.

1. Alfonzo Dennard was not targeted: After Aqib Talib was the star cornerback against the Falcons, it was Dennard against the Bengals. Granted, Dennard had a much easier assignment in this game, taking on Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones.

Talib did a nice job on A.J. Green. Limiting a top-10 receiver to 58 yards is no easy feat. The tight ends and safeties struggled at the beginning of the game against the tight ends, but they made some adjustments as the game went on.

Based on the TV tape, here’s how I charted coverage targets on defense. I don’t chart plays where there is no defender to blame. That is why the below numbers do not add up to Andy Dalton‘s totals.

Aqib Talib: 4-7, 58 yards
Kyle Arrington: 3-3, 50 yards
Steve Gregory: 2-3, 29 yards
Jerod Mayo: 3-5 25 yards
Dont’a Hightower: 2-2 14 yards
Devin McCourty: 1-1, 6 yards
Brandon Spikes: 0-1, INT

Check out the full charting stats for the season below.

Dennard: 15-31, 266 yards, INT
Arrington: 15-29, 192 yards, holding penalty
Talib: 9-26, 139 yards, 4 INTs, pass interference penalty
Mayo: 10-21, 118 yards
Gregory: 7-14, 95 yards, TD
McCourty: 5-6, 88 yards, TD
Hightower: 11-14, 80 yards
Ryan: 5-7, 65 yards, TD
Collins: 3-4, 33 yards
Spikes: 1-2, 7 yards, INT
Harmon: 1-1, 3 yards
Ninkovich: 1-2, 2 yards

2. Tommy Kelly was the most productive pass rusher before his knee injury: If Kelly has to miss any time, he’ll be missed. Kelly had 2 1/2 sacks and five hurries in the game for seven total pressures. Rob Ninkovich had another solid game and actually got in for a 1/2 sack this game. He now has 2 1/2 sacks on the season.

If Kelly has to miss any time, Chris Jones would likely be his replacement at three-technique defensive tackle. Jones had a nice game, picking up 1 1/2 sacks and one hurry. Vellano and Jones are both undersized, but they serve the roles of Vince Wilfork and Kelly well.

Check out how I saw the pressure break down below.

Tommy Kelly: 1 sack, 5 hurries
Rob Ninkovich: 1/2 sack, 3 hurries
Chandler Jones: 1/2 sack, 2 hurries
Chris Jones: 1 1/2 sacks, 1 hurries
Jerod Mayo: 1/2 sack
Dont’a Hightower: 1 hurry
Joe Vellano: 1 hurry

Check out the pressure stats for the season below.

Ninkovich: 1 sack, 22 hurries, 4 QB hits
Chandler Jones: 3 1/2 sacks, 14 hurries, 6 QB hits
Kelly: 2 1/2 sacks, 12 hurries, 2 QB hit
Buchanan: 2 sacks, 5 hurries, 2 QB hits
Wilfork: 4 hurries, 1 QB hit
Hightower: 4 hurries, 1 QB hit
Mayo: 1 1/2 sacks, 1 hurry, 1 QB hit
Chris Jones: 1 1/2 sacks, 1 hurry
Spikes: 2 hurries, 1 QB hit
Vellano: 1 sack, 2 hurries
Bequette: 1 QB hit

3. Tom Brady is more to blame for the poor passing performance than receivers or rain.

By my count, Brady had nine bad passes. Brandon Bolden, Julian Edelman  and Danny Amendola each dropped two passes. Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Michael Hoomanawanui also got their hands on some passes from Brady, but they were tough throws. They could be counted as drops and/or bad throws. The two other incompletions were nice defensive plays.

The rain could not have come at a worse time for New England, but Brady was struggling even before the skies opened up. I can’t figure out what Brady’s issue is. It could still be a lack of trust in his receivers.

4. The Patriots missed Stevan Ridley: LeGarrette Blount had a decent game in Ridley’s stead, but with the holes the 250-pound back was running through, Ridley likely would have picked up more yards. The Cincinnati defense didn’t appear to be too scared by Blount, either.

If Ridley had been healthy, it’s fair to think New England would have scored in the fourth quarter inside the red zone when Aaron Dobson and Amendola got them inside the one. It’s odd that the Patriots didn’t try to sneak with Brady.

5. This picture of Tommy Kelly is really sad:

Patriots fans have to hope Kelly’s non-contact injury wasn’t as bad as it looked. Losing Wilfork and Kelly would really affect the team’s run defense.

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